An eraser is an object used to remove pencil markings. It is known as “eraser” in the United States and Canada and as “rubber” in the UK, India, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Erasers are made in different shapes, sizes and colors and from various materials. Cheaper ones are made of synthetic soy-based gum or synthetic rubber while those of higher quality can be made from vinyl, plastic, or gum-like materials.
People tried to correct mistakes they made while writing even before eraser was invented. To erase marks from the paper, they used tablets of rubber or wax. To remove ink from parchment or papyrus they used bits of rough stone like sandstone or pumice. In Japan, they used soft bread. It was not until 1770 that we found out that a natural rubber made from plants can be used as an eraser. That year, Edward Nairne, an English engineer, picked up a piece of rubber instead of breadcrumbs and discovered that rubber can erase pencil markings. He started selling rubber (until then known as “gum elastic” or “caoutchouc”). Name rubber came from “rubbing” and it was given to the object somewhere between 1770 and 1778. But this kind of eraser didn’t work too well: it crumbled when used and in time perished, it was too sensitive to weather conditions and, it smelled bad.
Solution to that problem came in 1839 when inventor Charles Goodyear invented the method of curing the rubber - vulcanization. This process made rubber more durable and allowed for the eraser to become a household item. Hymen Lipman patented an attaching of an eraser to the end of a pencil, but he later lost the license. Most common erasers are in block form or are placed at the end of the pencil for a quick and easy use. There are barrel or click erasers which are built like mechanical pens that have an eraser as a core instead of lead. Novelty erasers, which are modeled as other objects or figurines are often made from hard vinyl which does not erase too well.
Today we have erasers of different types, not just shapes. “Art gum erasers” are made of soft, coarse rubber and are excellent for erasing larger areas because they don’t damage the paper. The only problem is (as with old erasers) that they crumble why doing so and their residue has to be removed. This is often done with a broad brush. “Kneaded eraser”, or “putty rubber”, is used to remove graphite or charcoal from a surface by absorbing it. It does not leave behind eraser residue like art gum eraser, and because of the lasts longer, but it loses its efficacy and resilience because particles that it erases stay inside it. Kneaded eraser can be shaped into a fine point to erase small details; it can be shaped into a larger surface and work as a stamp, and it can work as a blotter to lighten a darker area covered with graphite. They cannot erase larger areas because they deform while rubbing. “Poster putty” looks like kneading eraser but it has much stronger lifting strength, and it erases the surface by lifting graphite from it. Because of the way it works it does not smudge or damage work in progress. In other regards, it works very similarly to kneaded eraser. Electric eraser is basically an eraser fastened to a rotor of a small electric motor. The motor rotates the eraser at a uniform speed which erases the surface with much less damage than with hand. Soft vinyl erasers are used for precision erasing because they can smear large areas. They are used on technical drawings where they clean better than standard erasers do.